Nov. 23, 2013
CHESTER, Pa. - Senior kicker Mark Hamilton (Gaithersburg, Md.) made a 24-yard field goal with one second on the clock and Villanova (6-5, 5-3 CAA) finished off a furious rally to defeat Delaware (7-5, 4-4 CAA) by a final score of 35-34 at PPL Park on Saturday afternoon. It took 23 unanswered points in the final eight minutes of the game for the Wildcats to retain the Battle of the Blue Trophy and defeat the Blue Hens for the sixth time in the last seven meetings. Villanova trailed 34-12 just before the midpoint of the fourth quarter before mounting a memorable comeback.
Sophomore quarterback John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.) threw a pair of touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Joe Price (Havertown, Pa.) and then connected with sophomore running back Gary Underwood (Cincinnati, Ohio) for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:45 to play which pulled the Wildcats to within 34-32. Villanova proceeded to recover an onside kick and Hamilton's field goal put the finishing touches on the big rally.
The win for the Wildcats clinches a winning regular season for the 11th time in the last 13 years, as well as the 22nd time in 29 seasons under head coach Andy Talley. Villanova, which also set a school record for first downs in the game, improves to 25-21-1 all-time against Delaware and is 14-12 versus the Blue Hens with Talley on the sidelines. Today's game will long be remembered as one of the best in the series between the nearby rivals.
"That was a typical Villanova-Delaware game where if you hang on until the end anything can happen," Talley said. "It is just one of those rivalries that brings out the best and sometimes the worst of both teams. I thought Delaware brought out the worst in us, right up until about the 10-minute mark in the fourth quarter. They just pulled everything out of us that we had as a team and that is what we needed to win the game."
Robertson had one of the best single-game performances of his career and finished with 417 yards of total offense. He completed 19-of-28 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for 165 yards and a score on 31 carries. This is the second time in his career that Robertson has surpassed 400 yards of offense in a game.
The connection between Robertson and Price in the fourth quarter was a sentimental one. Price, who was one of the seniors honored before the game in Senior Day ceremonies, returned to the field after missing the past five games due to injury. He finished the day with five receptions for 103 yards, including touchdown receptions of 11 yards and 21 yards during the fourth quarter comeback.
"Joe has been out for five weeks with two fractured L5 vertebrae and he played today after a week of practice still in pain," Talley said. "He wanted to play his senior game. That's what this is all about. That is what we needed. Joe had a couple of touchdowns and some key catches."
Robertson was 11-of-13 for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. His 11-yard touchdown pass to Price with 8:01 to play pulled Villanova to within 34-19, and the 21-yard touchdown caught by Price with 3:17 left made the score 34-26.
The next part of the comeback was the 25-yard touchdown pass to Underwood with 1:45 left which made the score 34-32. Forced to attempt a two-point conversion for the first time all year, a pass attempt by Robertson was unsuccessful and the Wildcats were forced to attempt an onside kick.
Junior kicker Chris Gough (Winslow, N.J.) both took and recovered the kick. He waited until the ball traveled 10 yards and then fell on it to return possession to Villanova at its own 46-yard line with 1:45 to play. That left time for the Wildcats to pick up four more first downs, including runs by Robertson on third-and-one at the Delaware 24 and second-and-1 at the Delaware 11 to get Hamilton as close as possible for the game-winning field goal attempt.
Each team called a timeout with five seconds remaining before Hamilton made the kick and sent a crowd of 10,117 into a celebratory frenzy. It was the first game won in the closing seconds for Villanova since a 27-24 win over Temple in the 2009 season opener.
Delaware led 14-3 after the first quarter and pulled away from a 14-9 halftime score by putting 20 points on the board in the third period. Andrew Pierce scored on a 10-yard run for Delaware with 1:24 left in the third to make the score 34-12 and give the Blue Hens their largest lead of the contest.
In the first quarter Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley opened the scoring with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Michael Johnson less than three minutes into the contest. Midway through the period Hurley himself caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Rob Jones as the Blue Hens took a 14-0 lead.
Hamilton kicked a 32-yard field goal with 3:25 left in the first period and Robertson ran for a six-yard touchdown at the 12:13 mark of the second quarter to make the score 14-9. Hamilton's extra point after that touchdown was blocked, and is the only point-after attempt that Villanova has missed the entire season. Following the touchdown the Wildcats scored just three points over the next 34 minutes, with those coming on a 28-yard field goal by Hamilton with 7:36 to play in the third period.
Villanova racked up 626 yards of total offense, trailing only the school-record total of 706 yards produced against North Carolina State during the 1949 season. In addition to the 165 rushing yards for Robertson, junior running backs Kevin Monangai (Roseland, N.J.) and Austin Medley (Franklinville, N.J.) ran for 83 and 81 yards, respectively. This was the second straight game and third time this season that the Wildcats ran for over 300 yards. In its last outing Villanova ran for a season-high 338 yards against Rhode Island in a 45-0 victory.
Hurley finished the game 19-of-26 for 231 yards and two touchdowns for the Blue Hens, while Johnson had eight receptions for 127 yards and two scores. Pierce and Jerel Harrison each had rushing touchdowns for Delaware.
The game was only the second American football game ever played at PPL Park, which is home to the MLS Philadelphia Union. Villanova and Delaware played at the venue during the 2011 season in a game won by the Blue Hens, 26-16. The Wildcats have also hosted men's and women's soccer games at the venue, including the BIG EAST Men's Soccer championship last weekend. Villanova will be hosting the NCAA Men's Soccer College Cup at PPL Park next month.